Google blocks keywords in web analytics

Posted by Brandt Dainow on October 2nd, 2013 at 6:00 am

Google recently switched to secure search for all users. This means the search terms (keywords) people searched for will be blocked from web analytics software, including the most popular - Google Analytics. Many people are alarmed at this, concerned it will render keyword-level analysis of website activity impossible.

They're over-reacting.

It's not that bad.

Keyword analysis of website traffic is essential for many reasons. It's the only way you can know what people were looking for when they came to your site. This is essential in order to understand sales performance, marketing performance, what people want from your site, how to improve your site, and almost every other legitimate purpose you can think of. Secondly, there's no harm in it. The data is not personally identifiable, except by Google, and going secure doesn't protect people from Google.

Google introduced secure search for users who were signed into a Google service some time ago. In the sites I analyze, that took out about 25% of the data. That didn't bother me because there was enough left over to provide reliable data regarding user intent. Not much has changed. Google aren't the only search engine on the planet, and there's no measurable difference between a Google user and a Bing user. So unless all of your traffic comes from Google:-

You should still have enough data to work with from non-Google searches.

In the sites I've examined so far, the Google "(not provided)" accounts for between 70% and 80% of traffic. All these sites have enough volume for the remaining 20% - 30% to provide enough keyword data to understand visitor intent and draw conclusions. So long as you have at least 5,000 visits per month, you should be able to get on with business.

Google haven't stopped the web analytics industry from doing keyword analysis. They've stopped us doing keyword analysis of unpaid Google traffic. We still get Adwords data, and we still get data from other search engines. I'm not sure who the winner is here, but I suspect it might be Bing...

One Response to “Google blocks keywords in web analytics”

  1. What I have the biggest problem with is that the data in AdWords is still there and in Analytics it's not. If you want to secure searches that's fine but do it across the board. Don't make people pay for what you used to give them for free.

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